Way back in the early 1980s, a black metal band from Newcastle blew the rock world apart. The album was Welcome To Hell. The band was Venom. Over the next few years, Venom tore up the rule book with a combination of satanic themed, thrash infused punk. They courted the media, performed limited but legendary gigs (ask Brett Perry about the 7th Date Of Hell gig at Hammersmith Odeon) and generally told the establishment that this was what they were about. Despite the fact that their music was never polished, the number of bands who cited them as an influence is legion. Over the years they developed cult status, in spite of some absolute shite that they produced in the 1990s. The popularity of the Venom t-shirt sits alongside the Ramones, Motorhead, GNR and Iron Maiden; unlike the latter two bands, they didn't shift anywhere near the volume of albums.
Their 14th album, From The Very Depths, which was always the introductory line at their gigs is a statement of intent and one of their finest works since the very early releases. Kicking off with intro Eruptus, Cronos, Dante and Rage launch straight into the title track which is absolutely bonkers heads down thrash. Powerful double bass drumming, demonic riffs and of course the snarling guttural delivery of Cronos’ vocals. From The Very Depths powers along like a run-away race horse, solos peeling your face off whilst the rhythm section anchors the track with a ball breaking battery. No let up after this face melter with the huge punk spiked The Death Of Rock And Roll powering along. Cronos’ bass pounding away. The lyrics, as with all Venom releases verge on the preposterous with some dubious rhyming (Kid Creole with Rock n’ Roll?) but hey, this is legendary stuff. Who gives a fuck! Smoke is slower, with more grit that a Rhondda Council snow truck and huge riffs which wouldn't be out of place on a Crowbar or Down album; sludgy and dirty.
Back to a kick in the face with Temptation, pile drivingly heavy, massive hooks and powerhouse drumming before the brilliant ode to the times before Venom, Long Haired Punks which is just so entertaining. This is absolutely classic Venom with galloping bass lines, shredding and furious drumming and Cronos’s delivery as savage as ever. Manic laughter and brilliantly ridiculous rhyming, Long Haired Punks is the absolute essence of Venom. Killer guitar work combining with the powerhouse rhythm section and Cronos snarling and laughing all over it. Awesome stuff. Stigmata Satanas is possibly the heaviest track on the album, with a chugging riff which you can’t help but nod along to whilst the Devil possesses Cronos' soul again as he spews forth his satanic bile in a biblical style.
Whilst Venom is indeed a legendary, historic outfit who have created a genuine niche in the annals of heavy metal music, there was a time when their playing was not particularly impressive. However, the arrival of Dante and Rage has upped the level of quality, and advanced from 2011’s Fallen Angels. More massive riffs in the next track, Crucified, which slips back into the sludge factory with some disgustingly dirty chords and an irresistible beat. Evil Law has an atmospheric but disturbing intro before building with a Slayer type construction with more of the huge power chords and a combination of old school black metal combined with the intestines of Kirk Windstein, such is the demonic nature and pure sludge of this track. Grinding Teeth provides a huge slab of Motorhead speed metal whilst the demonic overtures return as Ouverture builds into the epic Mephistopheles, an ode to the German demon, featured in Faust’s legends. Wings Of Valkyrie brings the album to a fitting close, massive bass lines combining with pummelling drums to completely finish you off. However, there is also the bonus of a live recording of Rise, which has some of the most brutal riffage you’ll hear this year. This is a blistering album which has all of the edge and aggression that made Venom such a shock to the metal establishment all those years ago. Now, where the fuck are those UK dates? 10/10